Can You Make a Living in Manga If You’re Not Japanese?

Deb Aoki has been posting a five-part series exploring the question of whether young comic creators inspired by manga will be able to make a living with their art. So far, three parts have gone up:

  • Part 1 — why the art-related economy is broken
  • Part 2 — problems with using the label “manga” for non-Japanese works
  • Part 3 — what art school lacks in training young artists

The pieces are based on Twitter conversations, and they explore a number of economic factors, including the lack of support of original comic content of any kind, the superhero-heavy focus of the US comic industry, and the general unwillingness of manga fans to support non-Japanese work. Businesses in North America, when they do hire young creators, want them to work as hired hands on properties owned or licensed by them.

I found the most telling quote of the whole piece this one, by Erica Friedman:

I recently spoke to a high school class who asked me how they could break in to the industry. I asked them how many manga they bought by American artists and they told me ‘none.’ But they didn’t see the connection.

Your purchases fuel the kind of industry you want. Traditionally, that meant people telling you not to buy things you’re not enjoying. In this case, it’s the more positive flip side: buy what you wish was a viable market.

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